Sunday, July 19, 2009

Quito, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
After having breakfast we will drive along the Avenue of the volcanoes back to Quito. Farewell dinner in the evening.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chimborazo, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
We will start the climb at about midnight following the El Castillo route. This route is considered the normal way up the mountain because it is objectively the safest one at the moment. It normally takes eight hours to get to the Whymper summit from where you will enjoy one of the best views in Ecuador. To the east and south-east: part of the Amazon rain forest, El Altar which in the most difficult mountain to climb in Ecuador and the active volcanoes Tungurahua and Sangay. To the north and north-east: mountains like the Illinizas, Antizana and the famous Cotopaxi. The descent to the Whymper hut takes between three and four hours. After returning to the hut, we pack and descent to Riobamba town. The Abraspungo Hosteria will give us beautiful Andean scenery at the end of the climb.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chimborazo, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
Chimborazo is, with 6,310 m / 20,702 ft, the highest mountain in Ecuador. This old volcano is considered extinct although some recent studies show that it might still be considered active. Its main summit has the distinction of being the farthest point from the centre of the earth making Chimborazo somehow the tallest mountain in the world. It does not matter from which side you look at Chimborazo, it will impress you by its size and beauty. Today we will travel by bus to the Carrel hut (4,862 m / 15,951 ft). From there, it will take us between thirty and forty five minutes to walk to the Whymper refuge (5,047 m / 16,558 ft) where we will spend the afternoon preparing for the climb the next day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chimborazo, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
On our way to Chimborazo we will visit San Augustin de Callo. This hacienda was built on the site of an Inca palace. It constitutes one of the two most important archaeological sites in Ecuador, and the point furthest from Cuzco of Imperial style construction. Besides the farmhouse has a unique blend of architectural styles: 15th century Inca, 16th century Colonial and century Republican. After visiting this interesting place, we will travel by bus to the Chimborazo Basecamp lodge (3,950 m / 12,959 ft) located at the foothills of the highest volcano in Ecuador. This cozy accommodation in a spectacular setting will give us another opportunity to rest before our most demanding climb. There will be several opportunities to spot vicunas once we reach the foothills of Chimborazo. These camelids together with the other members of their family: alpacas and llamas are the biggest native South American mammals.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Notes from Josh:
-started at 1am, summited at 8
-hardest thing i've ever done
-winds that knock you off your feet
-changed somethings from the Cayambe climb
-boots are too tight -- toes cut because circulation was cut off
-5 am 18,000 feet or so, crossed area where the path was only about 2 footsteps wide that disappears into nothing at times on the sides; took 45 min to walk 200 m, winds would gust, pushing guides/rope teams together
-guide - Nacho
-6 guides for 9 climbers, guides radio each other, walking along like it was no thing,
"Robin" guide roped in with me, Nacho went on with Mark
-2 short, steep mountains back to back, get to the top and there's a sheer ice wall you have to climb
-wind was brutal, same kind of exhaustion as at the end of the marathon, but for 4 hours rather than 30 minutes
-get to the top of the wall, and then there's another hill to climb, get to the top of that and there's another hill, top of the next hill and finally at the summit
-didn't believe I was really at the top, expected one more hill
-spectacular view: clear in part because of the wind; could see all of the surrounding mountains, above the clouds,
-another 25 step walk and your on the edge of the crater looking into the now dormant volcano
-2 hours back, 3rd one to summit
-heroes welcome from the rest of the team waiting below

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
Alexander von Humboldt said: "Cotopaxi's shape is the most beautiful and regular of all the colossal peaks in the high Andes. It is a perfect cone covered by a thick blanket of snow...". We will begin the climb at about one in the morning. An early start allows us to take advantage of the better snow conditions and thus travel more quickly and safely. The normal route is technically not challenging but physically demanding. It involves climbing on moderate glaciated slopes (generally 30* - 45*). After approximately seven hours of climbing we will reach the top where we can enjoy magnificent views of the gigantic crater and of mountains such as Antizana, Cayambe and Chimborazo. After the summit climb, we descend Cotopaxi and head to the historic Hosteria La Cienega for rest and recovering.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
After breakfast, our transport will take us to the park land on the norther slopes of Cotopaxi (4,600 m / 15,100 ft). From there we will have to hike for approximately an hour to the Jose Ribas Refuge (4,800 m / 15,750 ft). Once at the hut, we will prepare [for] the climb of the most coveted Ecuadorian mountain: Cotopaxi.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

email sent today:

Day 8 update

First of all I'm still alive and things are going pretty well. Let me try to recap the last 7 days:

Day 2 - Hiked to the top of a "small" mountain (13,200 ft) near Quito called Pasochoa. Nice hike and good views of the city from the top. The mountain is an extinct volcano and you could look into the crater from the top.

Day 3 - Took a tram/gondola ride about halfway up another mountain near Quito called Ruco Pinchincha, then hiked to the top from there (15,300 ft). Great, challenging hike that involved some scrambling over rocks and boulders. Again, great views from the top.

Day 4 - Traveled to the first of the "big" mountains, Cayambe, to begin acclimatization. The plan was to drive to within a 1 hour hike from the hut then hike the rest of the way. The road leading to the hut was dirt and it happened to be raining/sleeting/snowing so much that the road had turned to mud and was impassable by our full size bus. We attempted for about 20 min to get the bus through before the guides told us that we could not make it through with the bus and we would have to walk the rest of the way (remember the rain/sleet/snow). The walk ended up taking about 2 1/2 hrs and we stumbled into the hut about 2pm for a late lunch.

Days 5&6 - Returned to the hut on Cayambe to stay for the next 2 nights and spent day 5 on the glacier practicing mountaineering skills. Used the morning of day 6 to also practice then returned to the hut for lunch and rest before summit day.

Day 7 - Summit Day for Cayambe. Actually awoke at 11pm on day 6 to be ready to begin the climb by a little after midnight on day 7. Starting climbing about 12:15am in the dark, cold, and wind (just a guess but probably gusts to 40+ mph). I managed to climb for a little over 5 hrs before running out of gas at around 17,600ft (summit was 18,900 ft so I didn't quite make it) and returned safely to the hut just before 7am. It turned out that only 2 of the 9 group members reached the summit (actually the two oldest guys, one 58 and one 68). We packed up and returned to civilization and a hot shower in the afternoon.

Day 8 - Rest and travel day to the next mountain, Cotopaxi. Nice and relaxing day and now we are settled in at the lodge we are staying at until hiking to the mountain hut tomorrow. We will begin the next summit attempt tomorrow night around midnight again. That's all for now.

I'll send another update if there is time and internet at the next lodge.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
Travel by bus to Cotopaxi. The region around Cotopaxi has the highest number of clear days per year in the Ecuadorian Andes. This exquisite mountain rises in Cotopaxi National Park, the showpiece national park in all of mainland Ecuador. On our drive, we pass through several vegetative zones and anticipate encountering llamas, herds of wild horses, foxes, Cara-Cara falcons, eagles, Andean gulls, lapwings, etc. and interesting paramo vegetation. We will stay at Tambopaxi (3,766 m / 12, 356 ft). This rustic but elegant lodge offers great views of the north face of Cotopaxi. There is a telescope so that we can have a closer look of the normal route up the mountain. Today will be dedicated to rest and recover strength for the upcoming climb.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cayambe, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
With 5,789 m / 18,993 ft, Cayambe is the third highest mountain in the Andes of Ecuador. It is also the highest point on earth through which the Equator line passes. Cayambe is located on the eastern cordillera, some 65 km north-east of Quito. This heavily glaciated volcano is considered active. According to some people the meaning of the word Cayambe is: "water, the source of life". We will start the climb at about midnight. From the refuge, we will ascend the rocky ridge up to the beginning of the glacier. Once on the glacier we will aim to the rock outcrop known as Jarrin peaks. From the top part of this rocky feature we will head towards the summit. From the top we can admire the subsidiary north and east summits of Cayambe as well as the big mountains such as Cotopazi and Antizana in the south. The ascent takes seven hours and the descent three to four hours. After the climb we pack up and travel to Hacienda Guachala, to rest and relax before heading off to our next objective.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cayambe, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
We will come back to the glacier to reinforce what we reviewed the previous day. We will have lunch at the hut and afterwards prepare our climbing gear and packs for the climb early the next day.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cayambe, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
We will drive back up to the hut on Cayambe to start reviewing mountaineering skills on the nearest glacier, including self arrest, basic cramponing techniques, self rescue, and crevasse rescue. We will return to the hut to spend our first night at 4,360 m / 15, 190 ft. The Cayambe hut is located on the south-west flank of the mountain and is the nicest mountain refute in the country. The views of the volcano and its surrounding from there are outstanding

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cayambe, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
Day 5: After breakfast, we will drive up to 4,286 m / 14,062 ft on Cayambe. Our acclimatization goal will be to hike up to the hut and farther on to the beginning of the glacier (4,877 m / 16,000 ft). It is worth mentioning that sometimes condors can be seen here flying above the Paramo land or the area around the refuge. In the afternoon our private transport will take us back to Guachala honoring the adage "Climb high; sleep low".

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cayambe, Ecuador

from our chat log this evening:

Josh: so this hacienda has internet (sort of) but no access to a phone (at least for guests)
me: how was your day?
Josh: good day today, challenging hike to climb Rucu Pichincha (15,600 ft), good scenery and pretty good weather, no rain, but windy, foggy, and cold at the top
me: (Aaron says it's silly that they have no phone and maybe we can send Daddy OUR telephone) how long did it take to climb?
Josh: ha ha, a total of about 6 1/2 hrs (up and back), we started with a gondola ride to get part way up the mountain (to about 13,400 ft) we met in the lobby at 7:30, started the hike just after 9, were back to the bus about 4pm and arrived at the hacienda about 6pm and just had dinner. tomorrow we don't start until 8. they are trying to keep us up at elevation for as long as possible to help with acclimatization
Josh: so we take several breaks and spend some time at the top
me: that makes sense. How are you doing with that?
Josh: so far, so good. some mild headaches but not too much else other than gasping for air as we climb. tomorrow its basically the same as today, just a little higher (16,000 ft) and a little colder. so yeah, so far the group is getting along well. I see similarities to Kili with how the group is bonding so you should be able to relate somewhat
me: good. I'm the teensiest bit jealous, but not enough to not be thrilled that you're doing it
Josh: I think you would have enjoyed the climbs yesterday and today, but probably not the rest as much :)
me: that's probably true. I need to be in MUCH better shape before I consider doing another climbing trip. Half marathon in January should be a good start ... did I ask you how dinner was?
Josh: not sure, dinner was good. food has been good so far
me: local stuff? or mostly sandwiches, etc?
Josh: we have sandwiches (ham and cheese) and lots of snacks on the mountain, dinners have been in restaurants. I told you about the Crepe place. last night was pizza at the supposed best pizza place in Quito
me: and how was it?
Josh: tonight was at the Hacienda. pizza was good (not as good as Pietros or Johns in NYC) but good. a little different.
Josh: before we get rushed at the end of my time, I don't know exactly when we will get back here on Sunday so be prepared for me to text you sometime in the late afternoon and we can at least figure out a time to talk more in depth
me: that will work fine. We have no plans past getting up there tomorrow afternoon!
Josh: also, don't worry if for some reason we don't talk on Sunday (I know it will be a bummer), but don't think that I didn't make it down. its been less predictable than I thought it would be to talk with you
me: okay, I'll try not to freak out. Just try to text me as soon as you can k?
Josh: there are 3 computers at this place and only 2 seem to be working now and there are currently about 2 or 3 people waiting in line to use them. there are a bunch of students (college?) here
me: not quite the same as having your own laptop in your own room, huh?
Josh: no it isn't and you have to ask for the ID and password and Ive only found one person that speaks English just to get on to the computers
me: argh... that's frustrating. time to brush up on your Spanish?
Josh: a bit, but I guess you go with the flow (when in Rome . . .). I'm trying. I did stop a kitchen worker and manage to convey that I wanted to buy 60 more minutes of Internet access so she could go get the person that could get me an ID
me: there you go! You were always much better at the speaking part than me
Josh: baby steps
me: exactly. You'll be fluent (at least in all the curse words) before you get home :)
Josh: it was choppy and probably came out like me . . . 60 more . . . Internet (that word in English)
me: ha! But it worked, so that's the main point
Josh: ...I cant stay up too much later because I still have to get ready for tomorrow
me: yeah, I guess it's getting late there, esp when you're climbing the next day
Josh: ...yeah. I'm pretty much wiped out
[insert standard back and forth of "I love/miss you, no I love/miss you..." until we were cut off promptly at 10pm ECT]

Ruco Pichincha, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
Day 4: Easy access from Quito using the brand new cable car makes Ruco Pichincha (4,698 m / 15, 413 ft) a great acclimatization hike. The gondola will take us up to an altitude of 3,966 m / 13,012 ft from where we will have a first glance of three of the highest snow-capped Ecuadorian mountains. Cotopaxi, Antizana, and Cayambe. From there we will start our hike, which will take us to the top of this ancient volcano in three hours. Two hours later we will be back in Quito and drive to the beautifully restored Hacienda Guachala (2,800 m / 9,186 ft), the oldest one in Ecuador where we will spend the night.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Quito, Ecuador

Talked to Josh for a little while on the phone this afternoon. Sounds like he's having an amazing time!  From my notes while we talked:

Dinner last night was at a crepe place where he had a tomato-basil-cheese flatbread pizza and split a salad with a fellow climber. He said the menus were huge, with an incredible number of choices. After making the choice for dinner, they were presented with equally extensive (15 page!) menus for dessert. Nancy from Montreal generously shared her selection -- 9 scoops of gelato, raspberries and cake. Dinner was a 2 hour affair, after which they returned to the hotel and went to bed to get ready for today's hike.

They were up at 7 this morning for an almost 2 hour bus ride up the winding mountain road towards Pasochoa. He said that there was one point the road had washed away and all that was between his side of the bus and the air/steep drop-off the side to the mountain was a barrier of caution tape. Nevertheless, they made it to the parking lot without incident and began their 4 hour hike. The weather was a bit damp on the way up and they were all starting to feel the altitude. The heavens opened up and the winds let loose once they got to the top, sending everyone scrambling for gear to cover up from the rain. Then, 15 minutes later, it stopped as suddenly as it started. Everyone was damp, tired, and more than ready to head back, but staying up at the top was part of the acclimatization process, so they hung out for another 45 minutes before starting their descent. The bus picked them up at 3:30 and they were back in Quito by 4:30. On the way back, talk turned to what time to meet for dinner and they staged a mini-revolt, moving the suggested 8pm dinner time up to 7pm. Sounds like the realization that they need more than just beauty sleep to accomplish their climbing goals is setting in!

More when I hear from him again...

Pasochoa, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
Day 3: On the second day of our acclimatization process we will drive towards Pasochoa (4,200 m / 13,779 ft). We will follow the direct route up the north side of the mountain. It takes approximately 3 hours to hike to the summit from the car park. Once there we can look into the old crater whose vertical walls preserve some of the last of the original forest that once covered the whole area. Pasochoa is also one of the few volcanoes in Ecuador where it is still possible to see condors, the largest flying birds. After descending, we will drive back to Quito to spend the night.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Quito, Ecuador

@4:04pm local time Josh wrote:
Well, so far, so good from Ecuador. This morning was spent touring the old city of Quito where we got to see the Virgen de El Panecillo, a large statue on a hill (considered sacred ground) overlooking the city of Quito, and the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, the most impressive Jesuit church in South America. Then to lunch which began about 1pm and ended a little after 3pm, partly because the service is pretty casual (not bad, just at a very leisurely pace) and partly because we stayed and chatted.

It´s shaping up to be a pretty good group to climb with. We all seem to be around the same experience level (some definitely have more trips under their belts, but others only have a few), but the vibe so far is good from everyone. Back to the room for a gear check this afternoon and then off to dinner. Tomorrow is the first day of actual activity where we will hike to the top of a peak just outside Quito and begin to test our lungs.

Quito, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
Day 2: We will spend the day sightseeing in Quito. Quito is considered to be one of the most beautiful of all South American capital cities with its well preserved colonial architecture and mild climate. We will visit the old town of Quito which has been declared a World Heritage by the UNESCO given its beautiful Colonial Architecture. We will start acclimating to the altitude while taking an easy walk through narrow streets and historical squares, admiring the old colonial churches, buildings and houses. Before returning to our hotel we will enjoy a great view of Quito from the top of the El Panecillo hill. This day constitutes an important foundation for our acclimatization. We will also have a thorough equipment check and orientation including discussion of Leave No Trace practices. Welcome dinner in the evening. Overnight stay in Quito.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Quito, Ecuador

Travel Update:

Josh called a little before midnight (Quito time) to say he had made it. We only talked for a few minutes (the hotel charges per call in addition to the per minute charge on the calling cards that he took with him and oh, yeah, it was nearly midnight and he had been up since 3am... 5am local time if you're keeping score.), but it sounds like Day 1 was mostly uneventful. He did say he was trying to send an email, but the internet signal was sketchy at best. Something about it being cloudy (?). I will update with that info as soon as I get it!

Quito, Ecuador

From the Alpine Ascents itinerary:
Day 1: Arrival to the capital city of Quito. It lies on a long and narrow Andean valley surrounded by high volcanoes at an elevation of 2,8950 meters / 9,350 ft. Our guide will be waiting for you at the airport and will take you to [Hotel Quito].